Thunder And Lightning: Top 20 To Never Win The WWE Championship
For this piece, Lightning and myself put together our own top twenty list of Superstars never to win the WWE Championship. While these were posted on our individual facebook pages in early September, I’ve decided to combine them and post them for those of you who don’t access our pages. For each slot, mine is listed first. Enjoy!
20. Lance Storm: Storm held the World Tag Titles on four occasions in WWE with three different partners and also held the IC Title. Storm was a staple during the Invasion storyline and one of the most polished technicians to come into WWE from WCW. Storm’s run at Booker T’s World Title in WCW more than proved that he had the mic skills and character to be a world champion as a heel. Unfortunately for Lance, WWE never gave him a chance to be in any main event rivalry.
20. “Hardcore” Holly: When he first debuted in the WWE as Thurman “Sparky” Plugg, I was convinced that he was going nowhere fast. The gimmick was awful and during his time with the WWE, I personally didn’t look forward to his matches. As he grew and his gimmick changed to the Hardcore Holly persona, I noticed a change in his in-ring matches. I found that his matches were more exciting and I looked forward to watching him perform. He executed his hardcore gimmick, which wasn’t too hard considering the Attitude Era at the time, but he made it believable. When he received his World Title push, I found that I was rooting for him to win and become the WWE Champion, despite my skepticism at first. The New Midnight Express tag team was a failed experiment in my eyes and should have never taken place. Holly is a 7-Time Hardcore Champion, thanks to his persona and the 24/7 title defense rule that the WWE placed on the title. He is also a three time tag team champion. He never held the IC Title, but I feel that during his WWE Title push, he proved that he belonged.
19. Shelton Benjamin: Benjamin was a WWE IC Champion 3 times, WWE Tag Team Champion 2 times, and WWE US Champion one time. He was also noted by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter as being the most underrated wrestler three years in a row (2005, 2006, and 2007). To top it all off, he participated in 5 Money in the Bank ladder matches, but NEVER succeeded in earning a title shot. Not only did he frequent the MITB ladder match, but he was the main highlight and innovator of insane stunts in all of which he partcipated. Benjamin’s biggest downfall, according to critics, was his lack of voice. He refused to speak up in the locker room, and never really had much of a chance on the microphone for further character development. Had the charisma matched the talent, there is no doubt that Benjamin would have achieved more success in WWE.
19. Jerry Lawler: Lawler owns more championships than anyone else on the current WWE roster. He has won more than 168 total championships in his career but has never, at any time in the WWE held ANY championship the company has to offer. Lawler is one of the most beloved members of the WWE Universe, but that wasn’t always the case. In the 90’s, Lawler became one of the most hated heels challenging Bret Hart on numerous occasions. Despite his feud with Bret Hart, Lawler never competed for the WWE Title. It wasn’t until Raw, many years later, did Lawler finally get his first WWE Title shot against The Miz. Though Lawler hasn’t had a successful run in the WWE in the terms of accomplishments, Lawler deserves to be on this list.
18. William Regal: William Regal is one of the most underrated superstars of all time. Regal wrestled solid matches in WCW and represented the midcard of the company perfectly as the television champion. He came to WWE and rivaled with several superstars, and also stood out in his commissioner role. He also stood out in later years by winning the King of the Ring and now trains a lot of the newcomers in developmental. Regal is a class act and a genius in wrestling knowledge. Regal winning the WWE Title would’ve been a reign like no other heel in the history of the business.
18. Lex Luger: Similar to Tatanka’s list of accomplishments during his WWE career, Lex Luger barely accomplished anything. He was the co-winner of the 1994 Royal Rumble with Bret Hart and he was the “first” man to bodyslam Yokozuna on television. Not exactly a stellar run for him. Luger’s WCW accomplishments are much greater. Luger executed his Narcissist gimmick perfectly, as well as his Total Package and Made in the USA gimmicks. His in-ring abilities slightly left something to be desired, but his execution of his gimmick and his appeal won him over amongst many fans. He proved that he could stay relevant in storylines people cared about. He also proved that whether he was a heel or face, he was going to make you believe that gimmick fully.
17. Vader: The rumor goes that Shawn Michaels had second thoughts about dropping the WWE Title to Vader in 1996. Vader was one of the most versatile big men to ever set foot in a wrestling ring. He worked great matches in WCW in the early 90s and had a run with their World Title. Vader’s monster gimmick and in ring ability proved his worth that he deserved to be WWE Champion. It’s unfortunate that he was dropped to upper mid card level following his loss to HBK.
17. Shelton Benjamin: Seems weird to me for putting someone who is still young, and has an opportunity to come back to the WWE on this list but Shelton Benjamin fits this list perfectly. Benjamin was a guy that was loved and hated and everything in between during his time in WWE. His match with Shawn Michaels was one of the best live matches I’ve ever seen and his ability in the ring, the technical wrestling combined with his athleticism was always fun to watch. During the Money in the Bank ladder matches, I felt Shelton always stole the show. As The Gold Standard, Shelton proved that he was ready to be a top heel in the company, but he had one problem. Mic Skills. His lack of ability to be able to talk is one of the reasons I believe he never received a World Title push, let alone a WWE Title push. He won the IC Title three times; I believe he was a good IC Champion. He won the US Title once, but his biggest accomplishment in the WWE was having been The World’s Greatest Tag Team with Charlie Haas. They won the tag titles twice, but as a heel tag team, World’s Greatest was hated by fans.
16. Billy Gunn: I loved watching Billy Gunn in the ring. His success at the tag team level was outstanding, but his singles matches were always solid. Gunn never got the right gimmick or the right push to go after anything above the IC Title, and it’s truly a disappointment because his dedication to WWE feels like it went unappreciated.
16. Ricky Steamboat: The definition of technical wrestling in the 80’s and early-90’s. Ricky Steamboat was loved by everyone. His matches were either extremely exciting or so technical it was hard to get into them. The Dragon spent most of his time in the WWE being beloved, but not accomplishing much of anything. During his run with the WWE, Steamboat only managed to win the IC Title once. His time with NWA/WCW generated a lot more decorations for him. Based on what he was able to do in the NWA/WCW and the support he received from the crowd, plus his technical ability is why Steamboat deserved to be a WWE Champion. My personal belief for his lack of a WWE Title run was due to his size. During his time with WWE, there was no mistaking that Vince McMahon believed(and still does) that size matters for the WWE Champion. Steamboat is considered by many to be one of the greatest technical wrestlers to ever grace the ring.
15. Tito Santana: Santana is a former IC Champion and wrestled in WWE for 14 years. Satana was a solid mid card guy with a huge following in WWE and put over HBK in his first singles match at WrestleMania in 1992. Santana also won the first match in WrestleMania history. Satana’s biggest bit of bad luck was the fact that Hulk Hogan was the ultimate face during his era and held onto the title for most of it.
15. Vader: Strength. Quickness. Agility. Those three characteristics describe Vader perfectly. For being 300+ pounds, Vader possessed surprising quickness and agility for a big man. Despite a lack of character development, there really wasn’t much any organization could have done other than bill him as the monster heel. Vader had a really good fanbase. His time in the WWE proved to be exactly how a talented big man can be misused; he successfully won a total of ZERO titles during his WWE stint. Vader did have success elsewhere having racked up a US Championship one-time in the WCW and he also won the WCW World Title a total of three times.
14. Goldust: Goldust was an awesome gimmick that never went above mid card level and turned ridiculous during the attitude era. The reality is that Dustin Rhodes is a great wrestler and deserved to go after the WWE Title in more than just one or two matches. He did in fact challenge HBK on a special edition of Raw in 1996 for the WWE Title. The Goldust gimmick was fresh and interesting, and the guy deserved a run with the WWE Title if even for just a short time.
14. Lance Storm: Lack of charisma was probably the biggest knock on Lance Storm for most of his career. In WCW, he held every major title, except the WCW World Title, at once. That’s quite an accomplishment for any wrestler to achieve, regardless of wrestling organization. His feud with Booker T. is a feud I remember quite fondly, mainly because I’m a huge fan of both guys. During his run with the WWE, he managed to capture the IC Title once, but his biggest accomplishment was winning the Tag Team Titles four times. Lance Storm is one of the best technical wrestlers I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Despite his lack of charisma at times, his run as the top heel in WCW when he held all four titles proved that he was indeed ready for a World Title run. Today, at Storm’s age, he was still capable of putting on entertaining matches with a mediocre wrestler(Mike Bennett) in Ring of Honor.
13. Jake Roberts: Jake the snake was one of the best ever on the mic and it’s hardly ever talked about. The snake pit was an entertaining tv segment done by Roberts and was a solid knockoff of the original Piper’s Pit. Jake was a great in ring technician that had a great fan following. With the right push into the main event scene, the Snake could’ve gone after the WWE Title as a heel or face and would’ve been an awesome champion for the company.
13. Christian: I’m sure some of you are wondering why a 38-year old, two time World Champion, who is still currently employed by the WWE is on this list. You’re asking yourself, aren’t you? I’m not going to run down Christian’s accomplishments, because all I know he is a Triple Crown winner and one of the most decorated tag team wrestlers to ever come through the WWE. Instead, Christian was put on this list because until last year, he had never held a World Title in the WWE. I firmly believe that the only reason he received those two title runs was because of Edge’s forced early retirement. If Edge was still wrestling today, Christian would have never received those title runs. There’s no secret that Vince McMahon is not a fan of Christian and for whatever reason, Vince is happy holding back one of his best wrestlers in the company to date.
12. Ron Simmons: Damn! Had to do it. Simmons was a strong heel as the leader of the nation, and he could’ve easily been booked to defeat the Undertaker for the WWE Title for their KOTR 97 match. Instead, Simmons broke up the nation, made a new nation, and then became totally irrelevant. What happened? Simmons was an awesome World Champ during his short run in WCW, and the guy had charisma and athleticism that matched up well against any of the top heels in 1997.
12. Jeff Jarrett: This is probably going to be one of my more unpopular picks for this list, but I firmly stand behind this decision for putting him on here. Jarrett was never anything special in the ring, and I’m sure some would argue that his charisma was medicore as well. I disagree. Though Jarrett was never truly a standout in the ring, his character always stood out. And the other quality Jarrett has is the fact that he is believable. Whether he was the IC Champion, a record six times between 1999-2004, and he also held the IC Title and European Title at the same time. Jarrett’s feuds were amongst some of the most heated feuds in the WWE. His title runs, though not extremely memorable, were believable at the time. His charisma, execution of being a heel persona and his accomplishments is why Jarrett makes this list.
11. Jeff Jarrett: Ain’t I great? Jarrett has wrestled at EVERY level in the business and has held multiple world titles between NWA, TNA, and WCW. Jarrett was always a mid card guy in WWE and had a solid run with the IC Title in 1995. Jeff has always been a sound in ring artist and busted his ass to help build the business. Had Jarrett not had such a poor relationship with Vince McMahon, there is no doubt in my mind that he would’ve been considered for a run at the prize gold.
11. Billy Gunn: Sitting just outside my Top Ten, Billy Gunn was a guy whose wrestling spoke louder volume than his mic skills. Despite the lack of mic skills, Billy Gunn still was loaded with charisma. His gimmick changed to the Mr. Ass gimmick in 1999, the same year that he won the King of the Ring. Gunn’s biggest accomplishment was becoming a ten-time tag team champion. But during his singles run is what made me believe in Billy’s ability to become a WWE Champion. He only held the IC Title once, but while he was the IC Champion, I remember watching him perform and believing that I was watching a future WWE Champion. The WWE has even acknowledged that Billy Gunn’s technical wrestling was amongst the best in the company and that he was an excellent athlete with strength. For whatever reason, Mr. Ass never received his WWE Title push. Gunn is also a two-time WWE Hardcore Champion.
10. Booker T: Talk about a guy that’s done it ALL in this business. The Book man has won every current belt that he is eligible for in WWE with the exception of the WWE Title. Booker has worked main event matches, held the WHC, won the King of the Ring, put over young new talent like Cody Rhodes, and has even taken a position at the announce booth before moving into this GM role. Vince’s biggest mistake has been never having an African American WWE Champion(Rock doesn’t count, he’s got too much Samoan, Canadian, and Hawaiian mixed in there). Booker would’ve been the perfect fit to hold the gold.
10. Roddy Piper: Looking at my list, I’m sure the placement of Roddy Piper will generate some heat against me. Though I firmly believe Piper deserves a Top 10 spot, I don’t believe he deserves higher than 10. Piper is the WWE’s all-time number one villian, there is no denying that. And Piper’s mic skills showed that he is charismatic as well and he received a lot of heat during his days as a heel and a lot of love during his days as a face. Despite being a huge Piper fan, I have to look at this objectively, the man simply wasn’t a good wrestler. He was a great brawler. Wrestler, not so much. Piper’s ability to get under his opponent’s skin and his surprisingly awesome talent of making the fans love him one minute and hate him the next is the reason he is on my list. His lack of titles in the WWE is a huge surprise to me, because he did deserve more than he received. During his time with the WWE, Piper was only a one-time IC Champion and one-time Tag Team Champion. In my opinion, it’s a shame.
9. Rick Rude: Ravishing Rick was again one of the best heels in the early 90s. Rude worked great matches and even managed to help the Ultimate Warrior look good in big time matches. The Ravishing won would indeed hold a World Title in WCW, but he never managed to capture the biggest prize in WWE during his run.
9. Goldust: Dustin Runnels’ career has had its highs…and its lows. With the introduction of the Goldust gimmick, WWE really pushed the envelope on television during the time period. Goldust’s feud with Razor Ramon was one of the most memorable feuds during the 1990’s and it really set Goldust apart from the rest of the roster. He was fresh, edgy and a little disturbing. Goldust’s in-ring ability was always something that never truly stood out, but remained entertaining to watch. He really could execute wrestling moves and with some precision when he had good chemistry with his opponent. He left WWE briefly for WCW, where they introduced him as Seven. That was a joke, and a major failure. His Artist Formerly Known as Goldust was probably the worst gimmick to ever hit the WWE, not exactly a high point for Dustin during his time in WWE. He won the Hardcore Title seven-times; he is also a three-time IC Champion and he has held the tag team championship once.
8. Chris Benoit: Benoit was a technician specialist and one of the best to ever set foot in a WWE ring. He took part in one of the most exciting triple threat matches in WrestleMania history when he captured the WHC from Triple H. Benoit put on incredible matches with the likes of MVP, Kurt Angle, Triple H, Chris Jericho ect. Chris was never awarded the WWE Title, but he was always in the hunt and deservedly so.
8. Ron Simmons: Faarooq, as he was better known as in WWE, was the first black World Champion ever when he became the WCW World Champion. Despite Simmons rough and tough style, his matches were always entertaining to watch even if his technical ability was something to be desired. His most memorable time with the WWE was during his APA days with Bradshaw. APA is still one of the best and most beloved tag teams to ever come through the WWE. He was leader of the Nation of Domination, as well(Another faction that played a major role in storylines). Despite staying relevant with storylines, Ron Simmons only garnered being a three-time tag team champion. He never quite duplicated the singles success he achieved in the WCW.
7. Ricky Steamboat: The dragon has wrestled some of the most outstanding technical matches in the history of the business. Any Flair/Steamboat match from the late 80s is considered an instant classic. The dragon also wrestled what some consider to be one of the best IC Title matches of all time at WrestleMania 3 with the Macho Man. Despite winning the World Title in NWA/WCW, the dragon was never pushed to that main event level in WWE and that’s mostly because he was a face during the Hogan era.
7. William Regal: One of the best, if not the best, technicians to ever grace the WWE ring, William Regal has never received WWE Championship recognition. Even though, he has never received that acclaim, Regal has a good list of accomplishments under his belt in WWE. He is only a World Title run away from being a triple crown winner. Regal’s charisma is vastly underrated for an excellent speaker on the mic and his execution of gimmicks is amongst the best in the WWE. He is loved by fans as a face and hated by more as a heel. He is a four-time tag team champion, three-time hardcore champion, four-time European Champion and a two-time IC Champion. Regal has played a part in a lot of major roles during his time with the WWE, playing commissioner and Raw general manager. He is currently an announcer on NXT.
6. Razor Ramon: Scott Hall executed an awesome gimmick and was one of the favorite faces for the first half of the 90s in WWE. Hall was never going to be booked to win the big win, and this is one of the biggest reasons he jumped ship to WCW. WCW offered more money, and Hall arguably had more success. He may not have held championships left in right, but the spotlight of being a centerpiece in the New World Order storyline more than made up for that. Scott’s demons seemed to end his career prematurely. I’d have to call it a crying shame that WWE never pushed Hall to that level. His challenge to Bret Hart at the Royal Rumble for the WWE Title was the closest he would ever come to sniffing the gold.
6. Razor Ramon: He fit the size, he had the wrestling ability and he had the charisma, but for some reason the WWE never allowed Razor Ramon to hold the WWE Title. Razor was one of my favorites, as a heel and as a face, during his time in the 1990’s with the WWE. He had the entire package that Vince looks for in being a WWE Champion. His two ladder matches with Shawn Michaels are amongst the best of any ladder matches I have ever seen. His aforementioned feud with Goldust remains one of my personal favorites. Razor proved that he was worthy champion while he held the IC Title, he held that title on four different occasions. Outside of his IC Title runs, Razor never held another championship inside the WWE.
5. Owen Hart: The Rocket was the most versatile athlete in the Hart family, and he always put on his best show. Owen was the only remaining Hart in WWE when he passed, and had he not we can only begin to imagine what he might have accomplished. His matches with his brother Bret are some of my favorites of all time. You just don’t see that sort of technical wrestling and storytelling in the ring today. Owen should have held the WWE Title in 1994 during his run as the top heel in the company, but WWE booking decided for some crazy reason to make Bob Backlund the one day transitional champion instead; Owen would have been a better choice.
5. Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase
During the 1980’s DiBiase was considered one of the best wrestling technicians in the world, during the early-90’s with his run in the WWE, he was at the back half of his career. During that time with the WWE, DiBiase was able to remain the top heel in the company with his Million Dollar Man gimmick. “Buying” his way into any possible advantage he was able too. And he made it work and made fans believe across the world. DiBiase was one of the most hated wrestlers during his time with the WWE because of his ability to use his charisma and execute his character. He challenged numerous times for the WWE title, but he never won it. He was the first ever WWE North American champion, as well as winning the 1988 King of the Ring. DiBiase’s best known for holding the WWE Tag Team titles three times and more importantly, having created his own belt, the Million Dollar Belt.
4. British Bulldog: Bulldog was the first ever WWE European Champion, an IC Champion, a Hardcore Champion, and a World Tag Champion twice. Bulldog’s early success in the business was in a tag team with the Dynamite Kid throughout the 80’s. Bulldog became a singles wrestler and had arguably Summerslam’s greatest match against brother in law, Bret Hart. Bulldog continued to wrestle at a mid card level until leaving the WWE for a year to compete in WCW, where he competed in feuds for the World Heavyweight Championship with both Sid and Vader. He returned in August of 1994, and would wrestle strong at the mid card level until a heel turn in late 1995. The heel turn led to the Bulldog having a rematch with Bret Hart at the December 1995 In Your House event, where Bulldog would fail to capture the WWE Championship from the Hitman. The British Bulldog had size, charisma, and technical ability that not many possessed during the time period. He had a following with the fans, and could have led the company in a heel or face role as world champion. The lack of a push is all that stopped the Bulldog from getting what he deserved in the 1990s.
4. British Bulldog: Bulldog’s size and power were something to marvel over, but it was his athleticism that was even more impressive. He flew around the ring with precision and speed that not many could rival. He was the runner-up of the 1995 Royal Rumble being eliminated by Shawn Michaels. His match for the IC Title at SummerSlam with Bret Hart is considered one of the greatest IC Title matches in history. Bulldog also made his any gimmick through his way, heel or face, believable. As a heel against Bret Hart, I remember the amount of heat he received for turning on him. Bulldog held every major title inside the WWE except the WWE Championship.
3. Mr. Perfect: Hennig was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007 and was a two time WWE IC Champ. Hennig was undefeated for a little while when he first came to WWE and then began a feud with Hulk Hogan for the WWE title. The feud did not last very long, and Hennig quickly was knocked down to the mid card level, despite how well he got over as a heel and despite his strong ring presence and amazing technical ability. Hennig went on to have a feud with Bret Hart, where we eventually witnessed one of the greatest matches in the history of the business. Hart and Hennig put on a clinic at Summerslam 1991 that resulted in Hart earning the victory and the launch of the Hitman’s stardom. Had Hennig not been plagued by injuries and not been held back because of his heel status during the early 1990s, there is no doubt that he would have been a great WWE Champion and could have carried multiple feuds for the WWE at a top notch level.
3. Booker T: Following in Ron Simmons footsteps, Booker T. became the second black World Champion ever. Booker T. started off as a well decorated and established tag team wrestler in the WCW with Stevie Ray. As for his time with the WWE, what hasn’t Booker T. accomplished? A WWE Title reign. He has accomplished everything else having held every other major singles title in the WWE. He is the only black wrestler to ever be a World Champion in both WCW and WWE. He is also one of only four man to be a WCW and WWE triple crown champion. Despite the fans disdain for the King Booker gimmick, the gimmick he had after winning the King of the Ring tournament, I was quite fond of it. The accent was completely unbelievable but I felt the gimmick showcased his heel capabilities.
2. Ted Dibiase: The Million Dollar Man lived a million dollar lifestyle for years to keep up the gimmick outside of arenas and shows. Ted Dibiase was a solid technical athlete and one of the most charismatic to ever hold a mic. His gimmick inspired several gimmicks in the future and helped set the bar for what a heel in the business should be. Dibiase’s purchase of the WWE Title was not legitimate, but a heel run as champion culminating in a title defense against Hulk Hogan at a major pay per view would have been nothing short of epic.
2. Owen Hart: Owen Hart was probably the most talented and athletic member of the Hart family. He possessed a rare combination of athleticism and technical ability and both skills were of the highest caliber. His feuds with Bret Hart were some of the best storylines and feuds of the 90’s. Owen could make you love him or hate him at the drop of a hat, but he was never more hated than during his character of the King of Harts. After winning the King of the Ring, Owen Hart catapulted himself into becoming the WWE’s number one heel, feuding with Bret. And the WWE dropped the ball by not rewarding him with a WWE Title run. Owen Hart held the European Title(One-Time), IC Title(Two-Times) and the tag team championship(Four-Times). The tag team of Owen Hart and Yokozuna was one of the best tag teams of the 90’s.
1.Roddy Piper: No one in history compares to the hot rod. Piper was a classic brawler and a legendary heel in the business. His rivalry with Hogan throughout the 80s is something most fans of that era will never forget. Watching Piper’s documentary dvd produced by WWE gives one great insight into the life of Roddy Piper and what he has dedicated to the business. Of all the superstars executing great gimmicks that didn’t get what they deserved in WWE, Piper is at the top of the list.
1. Curt Hennig: Mr. Perfect was one of the best heels to ever make his way through the WWE. Hennig was a talent that couldn’t gain any momentum due to being injury-prone. Hennig was a technician in the ring, a masterful at that. His legacy today is still talked about by many wrestling fans. Mr. Perfect, I can honestly say, was one heel that I absolutely LOVED to boo and root against, while secretly, deep inside of me, wanting him to win the WWE Title on many occasions. During his time with the WWE, Hennig only managed to win the IC Title a total of two-times. Despite that, Mr. Perfect found a way to always stay relevant and hovered around the WWE Title scene. If it wasn’t for the injuries, I fully suspect that Curt Hennig wouldn’t be number one on this list today.
It’s interesting to see where we agree and disagree. We’re five years apart in age, so that should be one factor taken into consideration. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check us out on facebook!
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